Going to Washington D.C. to Tell Our Family's Immigration Story

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The things we do for love. As an author-activist writing about the immigration and family reunification issues, I see the sacrifices that people make across the border for love and experience them myself on a daily basis. Now, as the Senate considers the immigration reform bill, I am on my way to Washington D.C. to share my story of how the broken immigration laws have affected my family.

Jose Antonio Vargas said this about my book Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America's Borders, coauthored with journalist Nathaniel Hoffman: “Immigration, at its core, is about the exceedingly complex, more integrated, constantly changing American story. And that is at the heart of this timely and important book. Immigration is not about ‘the border.’ It's about families, it's about communities, and as Nathaniel and Nicole vividly tell, it's about love.” Jose should know, as he is not only a journalist who won a Pulitzer prize for his involvement with the Washington Post team that reported on the VA Tech massacre in 2007, but also a news item himself ever since he "came out" as undocumented on the cover of Time magazine two years ago.

Image Credit: Nicole Salgado

Almost three weeks ago on May 24th, I wrote about Send Amor and Exile to Washington, our campaign to raise enough funds to deliver a copy of our book Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America's Borders to every member of Congress. I'm happy to report that we successfully met and actually exceeded our goal. We had 229 supporters in 29 states underwrite our campaign. As a result, tomorrow I will be leaving exile in Querétaro, Mexico to fly up to Washington, D.C. and join Nathaniel to deliver over 535 copies of to legislators and the offices of President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and the Supreme Court justices. We'll also conduct our first joint public readings of our book as it finally hits bookstores and the public eye, first on Thursday at AILA headquarters in D.C. and then on Saturday in Baltimore.

It really couldn't be a more timely moment for this to happen, as today the Senate will officially begin debate on SB 744, the biggest step toward comprehensive immigration reform in the last couple decades. To not miss this crucial moment in history, we two coauthors self-published under our new imprint, Cordillera West Books, virtually by ourselves, with the exception of a small corps consisting of our graphic designer and copyeditor, and several volunteers who helped with our campaign video and manuscript readings. Completing the project is juggled between (and made possible due to) our day jobs and families.

Writing about how my family has been affected so severely by current immigration policy has been painful at times, but the three years it took to write the book have also been therapeutic. Not only have I been able to work through a lot of the trauma of being exiled from my home country and adapting to a foreign culture, but I've also had many connections with others in my same situation, both in person and online in forum, have received an outpouring of support. In February, I got involved with Action for Family Unity and American Families United, and I think my advocacy work has really enhanced my role in this book project and increased my understanding of the topic in general.

For the last few days on our blog amorandexile.com—in between book publishing, campaign fulfillment, and frenetic trip preparations—I've been attempting to chronicle the process and emotions leading up to a trip that really embodies the culmination of several years' worth of work. The first two posts centered on how author-activism meets politics, and the obstacles we must overcome to pull off such a project.

Today, the main emotion I felt was dread about leaving my daughter for 5 days. I have no qualms about her staying with my husband because he's a "10" dad and she will be just fine. But I've never even spent a night away from her in her 3 short years, and so I'll be dealing with that anxiety as well. But as happens with almost every emotion or personal obstacle I have to supersede in this whole process—from living in exile to writing our story to making it known—and the tenet that I'll never forget since being knighted into this dubious sister/brotherhood of American citizens with undocumented spouses—is that I do not walk alone.

Despite the fact that I am torn between leaving my family here in Mexico for the 5 days I'll be in Washington, I know several individuals who at this very moment are leaving everything they've ever known in the U.S. to go be with their husbands in their home countries of El Salvador, Brazil, or who are enduring separation from their spouses for indefinite periods of time. Although I can't claim to know every important statistic or policy history, advantage, or disadvantage, my experience tells me that they, as well as my own family, and thousands, maybe millions like us, are the ones who need the kind of legislative relief that SB 744 could ostensibly provide if it manages to pass through the Senate and the House in its current version, which is to say with waiver reform intact.


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